Traditional pet health insurance companies offer several plans with predefined coverage, deductibles, exclusions and limitations. It's important to read the fine print of any plan because different companies not only exclude (or charge more for) different conditions or illnesses, they also define differently what constitutes such a condition or illness. For example, one company defines as pre-existing a condition that a pet develops during one plan year once the policy is renewed for the following year. Note as well whether the company that offers the plan pays based on actual fees, or according to a schedule of usual and customary fees. The claims process for all of these companies requires that you pay the vet fees, then file a claim for reimbursement. The drawback is that you'll need to pay at the time of service, but the positive is that you can use any vet you like.
The price you'll pay for a plan depends on whether you have a cat, a dog or an exotic pet. For cats and dogs, pricing is based on the pet's age, general health, lifestyle risk factors, your location (urban vs. rural, for example), and any hereditary risk factors. Most companies offer discounts for multiple pets; some also give you a discount if your pet is microchipped, has been spayed or neutered, or other factors. When you're shopping for insurance, expect to answer some questions about your pet and get a price quote based on your answers. You'll probably also have to submit a medical history for your pet.
Of companies offering traditional plans, Petplan (*Est. $14 per month dogs, $9 per month cats) has the highest average rating from existing customers at our top-rated review site, PetInsuranceReview.com. The company is also the official provider for the Humane Society of the U.S. Petplan offers plans for cats and dogs, but not exotic pets. There are three basic plans -- Bronze, Silver, and Gold -- each of which can be customized by choosing a per-incident deductible of $50, $100 or $200, and a co-pay of 0, 10 or 20 percent. Each of the three plans covers non-routine dental procedures, prescriptions and alternative treatments like acupuncture, in addition to vet services and hospitalization. The Silver and Gold plans add other benefits, and the plans have different annual limits; there are no per-incident limits.
Both congenital and hereditary conditions are covered by Petplan policies; pre-existing ones are not, but a condition is not considered pre-existing if it develops while the policy is in force. Routine preventive care, spaying and neutering are excluded. Petplan won't write new policies for dogs over 8 years old (5 for some breeds), or cats over 10. Pets already insured, however, stay insured for life as long as the policy is renewed each year without a break. Reimbursement is based on actual charges; you get your vet to submit a claim form and then receive a check.
Petplan earns an average customer rating of 9.2 out of 10 at PetInsuranceReviews.com, with comments like, "No other insurance pays as well, as fast, with as little hassle." Therese Kopiwoda, owner of PetSitUSA.com, pens a guest article at About.com, saying that customer service personnel at Petplan are "friendly, they remember me, are eager to answer questions, and...haven't questioned the cost, procedures, or any aspect of my dog's care."
PurinaCare is another pet insurance company that earns good customer reviews, though its plans are not available in Alaska, Florida, Massachusetts and Washington. Plans are available for cats and dogs, but not for exotic pets There are two versions: PurinaCare without Preventive Care (*Est. $28 per month dogs, $9 per month cats) and PurinaCare plus Preventive Care (*Est. $38 per month dogs, $12 cats). The names are self-explanatory; while both plans cover accidents and injuries, PurinaCare plus Preventive Care covers annual exams, vaccinations, flea/tick care, preventive dentistry, heartworm prevention and spaying and neutering.
Both PurinaCare plans have a 20 percent co-pay and annual deductibles ranging from $100 to $1,000. Hereditary conditions are covered, but congenital ones are not, nor are pre-existing conditions. Prescriptions and non-routine dental care are covered; alternative treatments are not. There's a minimum enrollment age of 8 weeks, with no maximum age. Payment is based on usual and customary charges, with an annual limit of $20,000, but no per-incident limit.
PurinaCare without Preventive Care has earned a Seal of Acceptance from the American Association of Animal Hospitals (AAHA) for its policies with deductibles of $500 or $1,000. (The AAHA favors high-deductible policies.) Customers at PetInsuranceReview.com give PurinaCare an average of 9 out of 10; most say their claims were reimbursed quickly and without question.
Trupanion (*Est. $29 per month dogs, $17 per month cats), wins positive reviews for its high-deductible policies as well: you can choose any amount from $50 to $1,000 for your per-incident deductible. Trupanion pays 90 percent of actual covered charges after the deductible is met. The policy covers treatment for accidents and injuries, prescriptions and non-routine dental care, including hereditary and congenital conditions. Pre-existing conditions are excluded, and hip dysplasia is excluded unless you purchase optional coverage for this before your pet is 1 year old. There is a $20,000 lifetime limit, but no annual or per-incident limits.
In addition to earning a Seal of Acceptance from the AAHA for its policies with deductibles of $500 or more, Trupanion gets good ratings from customers -- an average of nearly 8.7 out of 10 -- at PetInsuranceReview.com.
QuickCare gets good reviews from a couple of reviewers, in one case because it offers a plan for as little as $10 per month (for an accident-only plan for cats). The QuickCare plans are offered by Pethealth, Inc., which also sells plans under the company names PetCare and ShelterCare. There are a variety of QuickCare plans available. For cats, there are QuickCare Gold (*Est. $28 per month), which covers accidents and illnesses, with a $100 deductible; Complete (*Est. $38 per month), with higher per-accident and lifetime limits; Accident Only (*Est. $10 per month); Indoor Cat ($12 per month); QuickCare Plus (*Est. $16 per month), which covers selected accidents and illnesses; and Senior (*Est. $22 per month), which covers fewer illnesses. For dogs, you can choose from Gold (*Est. $67 per month), Complete (*Est. $58 per month), Accident Only, (*Est. $11 per month) and Senior plans (*Est. $33 per month).
Although some people may find the variety of plans attractive, QuickCare, under the name PetCare US, gets the lowest average customer rating of any of the plans rated at PetInsuranceReview.com: 4 out of 10. Many former or existing customers complain that the company avoids paying claims, raises premiums or deductibles without warning, and has poor customer service. QuickCare itself earns the lowest rating at TopConsumerReviews.com, where pet owners complain about the company's website and poor customer service.
The Hartville Group, Inc. sells Hartville Pet Health Insurance, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, and Pethealth Care Plan insurance. The best-known is the Hartville ASPCA brand, but all offer essentially the same plans for the same price. A key feature of these plans is that a condition that develops during one plan year is considered pre-existing once the policy is renewed for the next year, unless you purchase an optional "continuing care" feature. This drives up the price of the policy $8 to $10 per month. For cats, a predefined basic accident and illnesses plan with continuing care, a $100 annual deductible and a per-incident limit of $1,500 costs $21 per month. For dogs, this same plan costs $29 per month. Accident-only plans are offered as well, as are plans that add wellness benefits onto the basic plans. The plans do not cover congenital or hereditary conditions, but do include prescription medications. Reimbursement is made on the basis of what the company determines to be the average charge in your area for covered services (known as usual and customary charges). Customer reviews are generally not very positive, with many complaints about defined pre-existing conditions, slow claim payment and usual and customary charges.
One company, Embrace (*Est. $23 per month dogs, $16 per month cats), is consistently praised by reviewers for its customizable plans, and it wins good ratings from customers as well. When you buy an Embrace plan, you choose the annual deductible ($100, $200 or $500), the co-pay (10, 20 or 35 percent per visit), and the annual maximum ($2,000, $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000). There is no per-incident limit or deductible. You can choose whether or not to add coverage for prescription drugs and dental illnesses (dental injuries are covered under the basic plan), and there's also an add-on Wellness Rewards program under which you get $200 per year to apply to routine exams, vaccinations, dental cleaning and other things excluded under the main policy. You can choose different options for different pets, taking into account your pet's specific situation.
Embrace's basic plan covers both hereditary and congenital conditions, as well as alternative therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. Payment is based on actual charges, not usual and customary fees. Embrace will not write a new policy on mixed-breed dogs over 8 years old, purebred dogs over 6, mixed-breed cats over 10 or purebred cats over 8, but previously insured pets will remain covered as long as the policy has been renewed each year without a break. They also exclude pets that have been diagnosed with or are showing symptoms of diabetes or Cushing's disease. Pre-existing conditions are excluded, but those considered curable, like respiratory and other infections, may be covered after a waiting period of twelve months from when coverage begins. If your pet has an orthopedic condition on one side before the policy goes into effect, the same condition on the other side will be considered a pre-existing condition.
Embrace is ranked second at PetInsuraceReview.com, with an average rating of just over 9.1 out of 10 from existing customers. The editors of OrganicPetDigest.com and CheapestPetInsuranceReviews.com also recommend Embrace for its customizable plans.